—Sgt. Phil Esterhaus in The Teaser of every episode
Hill Street Blues was a serial police drama that was first aired on NBC and ran for 146 episodes from 1981-1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a police precinct in an unnamed American city, the show received high critical acclaim and its innovations proved highly influential on serious dramatic television series produced in North America. Its debut season was honored with eight Emmy awards, a debut season record surpassed only by The West Wing, and the show received a total of 98 Emmy Award nominations during its run.The series was unique at the time for being the first to bring together several ideas in TV drama:
Amoral Attorney: Joyce Davenport is a very nuanced version; while her liberal ideology drives her to fight to get her guilty clients off and deride the police as the neighborhood's "Nazi occupation force," over the course of the series she seems to come to appreciate that the police are the good guys.
Buddy Cops: Though not a Buddy Cop Show in the traditional sense, it featured several more or less permanent pairings: Hill & Renko, Bates & Coffey, La Rue & Washington, Flaherty & Russo.
Dirty Business: Many instances, including the memorable "Trial By Fury"
Don't Tell Mama: When the minor crook that Belker is constantly booking dies in an unrelated gunfight, he finally tells Belker his real name so Belker can at least let his mother know about his death. When Belker talks to her, he tells her about what a fine citizen her son had been.
The names of some of police precincts (Hill Street, South Ferry, Jefferson Heights) were taken from neighborhoods in Buffalo, and Steven Bochco modeled the Hill Street precinct on Pittsburgh's troubled Hill District.
Philadelphia City Hall was seen in several episodes.
The marked police cars' graphics resemble those of Chicago, and rumor at the time was that the Chicago PD did not allow the producers to use "CHICAGO POLICE" logos and graphics after the experience of The Blues Brothers.
One of the last scenes in the pilot reveals that Furillo and Davenport are lovers.
After getting into difficulties because of his drinking, J.D. La Rue is ordered by Captain Furillo to join AA as a condition of keeping his job. He goes to his first AA meeting and sees recovering alcoholic Captain Furillo there.
Secret Relationship: Captain Frank Furillo and Public Defender Joyce Davenport. In the pilot episode, she spends all day sparring with him. In one of the last scenes, she's seen in the bedroom, complaining to her paramour about how the police are Hill Street's "Nazi occupation force." Then comes The Reveal: her paramour is none other than Police Captain Furillo, the commander of Hill Street precinct! Over the course of the series, the relationship comes out into the open and they eventually marry.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Michael Conrad died early in Season 4, his Sgt. Esterhaus was replaced with Robert Prosky's Sgt. Jablonski (who was even given a similar catchphrase to close out the briefing at the top of each episode).
Two Words: Obvious Trope: One detective to another, discussing why the latter should stay away from a flirty high-school student: